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A year after the creation of the first nanocar by scientists from Rice University, a new and improved version is on the showroom floor. The new car, which includes a light-driven engine, opens the door to future development of more sophisticated nanomachines that could be used, among other things, for targeted drug delivery within the body.
In October 2005, a team of scientists from Rice University in Texas successfully tested the first nano automobile. Although this was not the first attempt to create a nanostructure that resembles in some sense an actual car, it was the first to actually move with some degree of control.
Motorized nanocar parts (illustration) (Credit: Rive University)
The original nanocar had a chassis, 2 axles, and four wheels made of buckyballs, a single molecule consisting of C60, i.e., 60 carbon atoms, arranged in a spherical shape similar to a soccer ball. The car measured just 3-4 nanometers, making it a tad wider than a DNA strand and about 20,000 times smaller than the width of a strand of a human hair. Movement on four wheels in a direction perpendicular to its axles distinguishes the nanocar from other similarly-shaped nanostructures built to date. To verify that the nanocar was in fact rolling rather than merely slipping or sliding, the scientists built it on a gold platform, which they heated to 200 degrees C, and then analyzed complex measurements of a series of images captured by scanning tunneling microscope (STM), capable of detecting single atoms.
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